Springtime In Alaska by Ken McBroom
The ice has left the beaver ponds and the snow is only visible high in the mountains. The days are a bit longer and there seems to be a buzz in town. That buzz is the coming of springtime in Alaska. The Hooter Grouse are hooting and rumors of the first King Salmon of the year drift through the streets, “caught down by Lizard Rock”, they say. Just a matter of days before they hit the breadline and mark the full feel of spring when the eagles sing and the bears can be seen browsing the avalanche chutes on the mountains as the boat slowly cruises to that favorite spot to begin to slow troll a herring for the Kings that lurk below.
You rig the six-inch herring so that it rolls with the pull of the boat as the kicker motor smokes and misses before it sputters to life, a sign of the long winter storage. There is friendly debate, as there is every spring, as to whether the herring should be rigged for a fast tight spin or a slow wide spin or whether to slow troll or speed it up a bit. Some like a Hoochie, a soft bait resembling a squid, rigged before the herring, others prefer just a two-hook leader. Some like a slip leader while others prefer fixed. The smell of coffee fills the small cabin on the boat. The beer is buried in ice for later while the last of the smoked salmon thaws on the counter next to the bagels and cream cheese. Some like their coffee black while others like it with cream and sugar and the Irish cream is always available. It is springtime in Alaska.
It is May but your breath can be seen in the early morning sunlight as you step outside the heated cabin and into the chilly air. The water is glass calm and the rod tips flutter with the spin of the herring. A wolf cruises the beach in search of something to eat as a humpback blows in the distance, its breath also very visible in the chilly air. The sun still rests below the mountains making for tranquil angling below the rare cloudless sky.
Four hours and not a bite, the coffee is gone and the cold Alaskan Ambers are nervous in the cooler as the boys begin to eye them admiringly. The fates of the Ambers are inevitable but for the moment it is still a bit early. Herrings are changed. Hoochies are added or their color is changed. It is early spring and even though these anglers know the rod hours to King’s caught are many it does not stop the great anticipation that has been hibernating for the long winter. The stories have all been told by now, the same ones from the year before. A few new ones will be added this season as the spring and summer in Alaska are never short of adventures.
Eight hours now and the beers are nearly gone and no one is paying attention to the rods by now. Smoked salmon pieces and bagel crumbs litter the counter. The small external gas can that fuels the kicker is almost gone, tilted on its side to get a few more hours of trolling in. The moral is low for fishing but the day is unbelievable. Friends have come together once again to enjoy a day in paradise and one that is not taken for granted. A day on the ocean in Southeast Alaska is a day to remember, fish or no.
The eleventh hour yields five weary anglers and an empty cooler but the sunset is too grand to leave. One-rod still rest in the rod holder as the last herring slowly spins eighteen pulls behind the boat. The anglers admire the evening as the sun eases behind the mountain. The first trip out almost gone. Then a yell pierces the tranquil moment and before the closest angler can get to the last rod with the last herring, two words; synonymous with springtime in Alaska, echo across the water and off the snow capped mountains that surround.